Derek McGrath and Waterford straight to the point

‘We’re just trying to improve. It sounds monotonous, but that’s where we are’

Derek McGrath celebrates at the final whistle. Photograph: Inpho/James Crombie

Derek McGrath celebrates at the final whistle. Photograph: Inpho/James Crombie

 

Derek McGrath is the best thing to have happened to GAA reporters in quite a while. We know this and we’re trying very hard not to jinx it. In a world groaning under the deadweight of suspicion and double-talk, McGrath has been infected with the terrible disease of honesty. If there’s a vaccine available, we’re the last people who will point him in its direction.

Dream season, Derek? “Time to get out so! I was saying to someone yesterday that when they open the book on Division 1A next year, we’ll still be favourites to go down. It might be time to play the cute card and get out. Say I have health issues or something.

“It’s very hard to put your finger on it. We’re just trying to improve. I know it sounds monotonous to keep saying it, but that’s where we are. I’m just proud of the lads to be able to revisit what happened five weeks ago and push on again. That’s tough. I know Davy did it two years ago but it’s hard to get that edge.”

We threw him our best and our dumbest afterwards, and he gave each one more patience and goodwill than each one probably deserved. We even asked him if his side were All-Ireland contenders, the sort of question usually met with a look of pity and an offer of a warm bed for the night. McGrath, long since past the call of duty, met it full on.

‘Fair clipping’

“I’m not sure,” he said, thoughtfully. “I’m not just playing the card, I’m not sure. I think everyone’s just waiting for us to get a beating and say, they’re not really contenders. What did we score, 3-19? That’s fair scoring, fair clipping. And we’re playing with a bit of confidence now.

“I’m just looking forward to being proud, watching the lads going around behind the band on Munster final day. We’re probably a couple of years ahead of ourselves. If I had to predict what would happen, we might have a good year this year, a lull next year and then they may come again. Next year will be a different year. I’m just being honest.”

This was a hell of a job for McGrath and his team. Any cover they had on their side going into the league final was blown, any sense of novelty zapped. To face down the Munster champions having comprehensively shown their hand five weeks ago is some achievement.

“Yeah, I have to say that’s the most pleasing thing. We were warts and all in on the league, we wanted it like no other team did. To be able to do that and approach a championship day when the echoes of ‘Ah that was only the league’ are in your circle, that’s very satisfying.

High pressure

“We had a wobble. I think it came from high pressure from Cork early on; they pushed up on us and we weren’t able to get our game going. We just weren’t able to get our game going. I think we were over-structured for the first time this year.

“I think we were over emotive as well. We watched a video with message for Pauric Mahony on the bus on the way in and we were drained.”

Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s demeanour is always the same in these situations. Win or lose, he’s even-tempered and philosophical. His side lost their Munster title here and his response was only to praise the team still in with a chance of winning it.

“I was delighted with our start and I felt then that momentum was with us a bit. We had some poor wides, some poor shot-selection which hampered us and then the goals.

“We didn’t take our chances when we were ahead and push on in the first half. The goals came then and they knocked us back a lot. They knocked our confidence, I felt.

“We were reasonably happy at half-time. We played so well that I felt we shouldn’t have gone in a point down. The goals decide games. In fairness to Waterford, you have to admire them.

“Over the two days, they have been the better team and we have to accept that and move on from that.”

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